"President Donald Trump." Who would have thought just one year ago that these words would be uttered in the news without sarcasm or irony? Certainly even five months ago, with primary politics and no indicators of Trump's viability in a general election contest, this concept seemed novel at best and ludicrous for most. In many ways, the thought of Trump in the White House was far fetched. A crass schoolyard bully with no filter and no precedent in American history, few if any could imagine such a wild card delivering a State of the Union Address. There was certainly merit to the near universal reluctance to throw in our lot with such an unpredictable character.
This is not to say that Trump's strategy and image were not extremely effective, I have written extensively about the political genius and tactical calculation which paved an impossible path to the Republican nomination. The name calling, the sensationalism, and the opulence of 2015 to pre RNC Trump were fun and necessary to capture the imagination of a party weary from civil war; but this behavior had a time and a place.
In reading The Art of the Deal, one quickly realizes that Trump's mastery of business in general and real estate in particular is founded upon an uncanny talent to harness the power of timing. In the late 70s, New York City was in free fall. Rampant crime, government incompetence, and a failing economy under President Carter had investors and residents fleeing the city in droves. Captured by the passions of the present crisis, many had lost faith and given up hope in their beloved empire city, looking towards Japan and other places for the future. Most businessmen believe in nothing but the bottom line, and as an eighteen year old college student with no assets and an impending avalanche of debt, I am in no place to question this mindset; but a young, pragmatic idealist believed in something greater. Trump's faith in America's city was not shaken in her darkest hour, perhaps it grew stronger.
In the lowest valley of the worst economy since World War II, Donald Trump turned away from his father's enormously successful real estate business of building low income brick housing in the outer boroughs and instead set out to build skyscrapers of glass and gold in downtown Manhattan. At just 33 years old, he began construction on Trump Tower, a modern day Versailles built in his name on Fifth Avenue, among the most valuable land in the world. This faith in his city, his country, and his own talents is what enabled him to understand the present and the future with such clarity as though looking down at it from his penthouse apartment.
These talents were put to work in his aggressive conquest of the Republican Party. His faith in America dictated his message and his faith in his talents allowed him to shirk 240 years of conventional political wisdom to dismantle the largest and most competitive primary field in the history of the party. Though his means were less than presidential, they achieved the desired outcome with undisputed success.
Then, without warning, sometime in early August, Trump's immunity from the mainstream media and political correctness ended before even he realized it. A week's worth of gaffes which would have made good press coverage in March or February sent his campaign in a tail spin from which it is still recovering in mainstream analysis. While lazy herd-minded journalists are content to project an imprecise and insulting narrative of Trump as a mentally unstable or bumbling, simple minded bigot, this week has empirically disproved any theory of his success as accidental. The versatility and adaptability which Trump has demonstrated in such a short time in the current news cycle has annihilated the common refrain from nervous beltway pundits that somehow a crazy billionaire from TV land stumbled into a 50% chance at becoming the President of the United States.
Trump's latest evolution is his final form: President Trump. We are all familiar with candidate Trump, the man of the wall, the uninspired bad hair memes, the Rosie O'Donnell joke, and countless other memories; we were inspired by nominee Trump who said "I am your voice," whose RNC provided a global stage for the divine message of an unapologetic return to American Exceptionalism; and this week we were introduced to President Trump, the next leader of the United States and the American people.
This incarnation was responsible for the first response to the devastating floods in Louisiana, the inclusive, focused new message of the campaign, the mission to Mexico, and last night's Commander in Chief Forum. In the span of just one week, Trump has risen to the occasion and become worthy of wielding the power held by the highest office in the land. In Louisiana we saw Trump the leader, in Mexico we saw Trump the statesman, in Detroit we saw Trump the uniter, and in Washington DC last night, Trump the Commander in Chief made his primetime debut.
Hillary Clinton, amid numerous and weekly, disturbing controversies, looked haggardly and fatigued. Though the official program was called a forum, the first half hour seemed more like an interrogation with a defensive and frustrated Hillary Clinton nervously swatting away the first hard questions of her campaign with her notoriously swollen fingers. Aside from her appearance, Clinton's answers were rambling and unorganized with little coherence or consistency. Awkwardly standing up and sitting down to pivot between ignoring Matt Lauer and lying to veterans, the entire affair was uncomfortable to watch and difficult to listen to. You would think that with hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate money and the best campaign advisers that money can buy, George Soros could train a dying dog better tricks.
If Clinton's performance could not have been any worse, there are few conceivable ways that Trump's could have been any better. After Hillary's corporate handlers and paramedics carried her off the stage, it seemed as though a golden aura of optimism and power enveloped the studio as Donald Trump strode in, healthy and confident, ready for battle. With Matt Lauer he was not contentious, and with the vets he was respectful and amicable. Trump's answers were engaging, consistent, and to the disdain of NBC and the New York Times, actually quite sensible. On a possibly planted question about illegal immigrants in the military, rather than an expected "gotcha" moment, Trump reversed it with ease into an answer which exuded reverence for the military and sensibility on immigration.
Trump appeared cool, calm, and competent in an almost 180 degree turn around from the angry bombast of the primary debate series. With one hour left to go as of writing, a Twitter poll by NBC News has Trump outperforming Clinton 63% to 37%. Completely overcoming the liberal bias of NBC's producers and its viewers as well as a large favorability deficit, Trump is reasonably in a position to win the general election if this triumph is repeated in the coming debates. Hillary Clinton was rattled by Matt Lauer and several common sense questions about her email scandal, while Trump was able to confidently tell America he had a big penis without missing a beat just months ago. He cannot lose.
The Real Clear Politics polling average puts Clinton just under 3 points ahead of Trump. In 20 days Trump has climbed nearly 6 points with 60 days to go, and as last night's forum illustrated, the Clinton camp sits helpless and vulnerable on the tracks as the Trump Train barrels ahead. This time last year, the naysayers on the Clinton News Network and NBC laughed and pontificated about narratives and notions, impressing themselves with their articulate take on another election. Little did they know that in just one year's time they would come to call that reality TV clown whom they jeered and snickered at, President Donald J Trump.